Sunday, May 09, 2010


I realize I'm a week late with this, but in case you haven't seen it (and assuming it hasn't been pulled from YouTube by Fox's legal department), here's this thing.

Two lines of thought here:

1) Like most hardcore fans of The Simpsons, I haven't actually watched any new episodes of the show in years.  When last I watched with any passing regularity--three, four years ago maybe?--it was occasionally amusing, but the laughs had become distressingly generic.  The vivid characterizations and razor-sharp social satire (and endlessly quotable dialogue) that defined the show at its peak had been replaced by obvious gags and tediously familiar storylines.  It wasn't bad, exactly, at least not late period MASH bad, but it wasn't the show so many had once loved.

So I first heard about this intro last Monday, after the episode featuring it aired.  I couldn't bring myself to actually watch it until mid-week, and couldn't bear to really consider it until now.  This is absolute proof on every level: The Simpsons is beyond salvation.

Leaving aside for a second that basing an intro around a disposable pop single that will, God willing, be forgotten in a year or so is the type of opportunistic grab for cultural relevance this show used to satirize, the actual use of the song was apparently mandated by Fox executives, who wanted to fit the show into some sort of promotional scheme.  The fact that after twenty years on the air, the producers of the show that essentially legitimized the Fox network lacked the balls to tell their corporate overlords to fuck off tells you everything you need to know about the current creative regime on the show.  If they lack integrity when it comes to matters like this, they'll lack integity when it comes to creative matters as well.

And it shows in this intro.  They start it out with Lisa, of all people, breaking into this song.  Yeah, she used to read Non-Threatening Boys magazine and had her bizarre Corey obsession, but musically, she'd never listen to this crap, much less perform it.  But she's not a character anymore, is she?  Just a dead-eyed pawn who will do or say anything the producers want her to say.  (And having Nelson intro the chorus?  Seriously?  He's an Andy Williams fan!  He wouldn't know Ke$ha from a whole in the head.)

Visually, too, this is a creative disaster.  The Simpsons unwisely overhauled its spiky, garish visual style with the advent of high-def sets, resulting in cleaner lines and more elaborate color styling.  But so what?  The animation in this sequence is smooth, but utterly lifeless: All the characters move in exactly the same way, their only goal to get from point A to point B, much as their only function is to mouth generic laugh lines. 

These were once specific people.  We watched the show because we knew we'd laugh,  but we knew we'd care, too.  But when the people churning it out don't care, viewers can't, either.

2) I'm occasionally chided by those more pop culturally aware for being, you know, out of it, but seriously, what the hell's the deal with this song?  Rolling Stone recently ran an unintentionally hilarious profile of Ke$ha that tried to somehow she's some kind of, like, artist, because her stuff comes from someplace, um, like personal and shit?  (Because nobody's ever before recorded pop songs about drinking and fucking.)

My problem with the song is embedded in the very first line: "Wake up in the morning feelin' like P Diddy"--Wait.  Really?  What the hell is this, 1998?  That was about the last time anyone could make a non-ironic reference to The Artist Formerly Known As Puffy without being seen as hopelessly out of it. 

Obviously, there are other reasons to hate the song--the generic production, the tedious overuse of Autotune, the fact that it was recorded by someone with a dollar sign in her name--but when you start your song by giving a shout out to one of the biggest charlatans in modern pop, you deserve...well, you deserve to be associated with present-day Simpsons.